In the internal White House battles over the Geneva conventions, enemy combatant policies, extraordinary rendition, and torture — which have been viciously waged between various Bush administration officials against other colleagues in the same White House — there are a few heroes who fought the “darkness at noon” solutions advocated by Vice President Cheney’s team.
I am writing a significant, lengthy piece right now on a bit of this history as I think that a giant, high beam spotlight should blare down on Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington, for the particularly insidious role that he has played over the last six years in sabotaging America’s norms and ethics as well as system of checks and balances in government.
There are a number of heroes in my book including former Department of Defense and Department of State lawyer Matthew Waxman, who tried to stand up to Addington and his like-minded torture obsessives, and State Department Senior Legal Adviser John Bellinger who has worked vigorously to walk America away from the so-called “war paradigm” and towards a “rule of law” framework again. In fact, Bellinger is an advocate of numerous international law frameworks — including ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention.
I hate saying good things about Bellinger because I fear it will get him in trouble with the censors in the White House. But Bellinger is on the right side, and it must be said repeatedly.
I mention this because I just ran across an interesting and thoughtful blog, Dorf on Law that in a review of Jack Goldsmith’s The Terror Presidency, Jamison Colburn mischaracterizes Bellinger and tosses him with the likes of Addington. This couldn’t be more incorrect.
Goldsmith is the Henry Shattuck Professor at Harvard now. He made his academic name cautioning against “universal jurisdiction” and the application of international law in U.S. courts while teaching at Chicago. That was before his stint in the Bush Administration. It took Goldsmith’s determination to pull the torture opinions and revise them because apparently there were many in the administration who adamantly opposed him and wanted the cover OLC opinions provide. (David Addington, John Bellinger, and some others are referenced throughout the book for their especially idiotic, chauvinistic, and dangerous views.) (Goldsmith’s words, not mine.)
I understand the writer’s general critique of the administration and agree with much of what he writes — but his target should be Addington, not Bellinger. In fact, Goldsmith says nothing at all about Bellinger along the lines that Colburn says.
Goldsmith’s only references to John Bellinger are that he strongly opposed David Addington’s efforts. On page on 124, Goldsmith writes that Bellinger was one of the people, along with Paul Clement, urging the White House to try and cultivate Congressional support for “War on Terror” policies. Bellinger was shot down in those efforts, and then on page 126, Goldsmith writes:
‘They do not have a vote,’ was how [Addington] would invariably respond when someone — usually John Bellinger — would object to a policy (or lack of one) by invoking allied protestations.
That kind of response is classic Addington — and is antithetical to everything Bellinger is about.
I share this not to harrass or impugn Jamison Colburn. As I’ve written a great deal about Bellinger’s important work in trying to walk this country back to some kind of legal sanity, while fighting Cheney’s team inside the White House, I wanted to make sure that there was a record that Bellinger and Addington are total opposites on the topics that Colburn considers them the same.
— Steve Clemons